KORAT, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said believes exposing young athletes should take precedence instead of just focusing on winning medals.
"Sometimes we have to be bold and take a gamble by sending young athletes, as a means of exposing them to high level competition. Though winning medals is important, it is not everything.
"Take for example our decision to send the back up squad for badminton although we have world class players. But if we continue to depend on the elite players, we will be left high and dry when they retire," she told Bernama after awarding the winner's medal to Roslinda Samsu at the King's Anniversary Stadium here today.
Roslinda won the women's pole vault gold in athletics together with Lee Hup Wei, when athletics competitions drew down the curtains with Malaysia winning seven gold medal, one short of the Manila SEA Games haul and three short of the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union's target of 10.
Azalina who flew in today to check on the progress of the Malaysian contingent here in the Korat SEA Games, said many people had questioned the decision but to us (Government), we see the Games from the development perspective and as a platform to expose athletes.
"Even in athletics, there are a number of athletes who are first timers and won medals, though not the gold, I feel this is a very good beginning. Maybe we should seek for additional allocation from the government to focus on development," said Azalina who believes the Malaysian contingent can achieve the desired 64-gold target.
She added that the initiative of Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, who is the president of the MAAU, Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (ASUM) and petanque, to hand out cash incentives for gold medals winners can boost the morale of athletes.
"I have seen the athletes in action and they are all in high spirits. We missed some sure gold medal prospects but there have been some that we did not expect. So, I'm quite happy with the progress here," she said.